whispers in the oaks

I think it unlikely that I will post a public chronicle of my days spent in Arkansas, for reasons that are abundantly clear in the private entry posted directly before this one, but there is one story that I wanted to tell. It was not for what I did, but for what I chose not to do.The dead cross daily with the living in Tull; it is a place in which your memories and your past confront you even during the smallest of errands.

a river's width

There aren't many ways to get there from here. It's easy to underestimate the power of the Mississippi River until you realize that there are only four roads that cross Arkansas' eastern border. That's correct: four, for the entire state. Memphis holds two; the northern I-40 bridge and the southern I-55 bridge. Your next chance is a good bit farther south, in Helena, and your final opportunity lies at the southeastern corner of the state near Lake Chicot.

(We won't count the railroad-only bridge in Memphis, which technically makes five.)

scale error

Truth is, I haven't let myself think about it much. Three hundred and eighty-five miles is nothing when compared to the scale of a planet, but it's a planet when compared to the scale of a life. While putting together my breakfast this morning I asked myself what the hell, exactly, I thought I was doing, planning on returning to the town of my birth. What do I hope to see? What do I hope to accomplish?

I'm not sure.


If I can cough, I can breathe, and if I can breathe, I'm still here. 'Here' is a relative term, though, and one whose definition will change a few times in the coming weeks. More so than I'd planned even a month ago, and more so than I've said publicly.I have a plane ticket with my name on it, a ticket that will send me away for a week for a trip that's been delayed since October for various reasons. Instead of an exciting, action-packed Vacation!™ I think I will be … escaping. Resting. I will be gone for a week, and I have zero plans for that week.

Firefighter down

I have written these words in various guises, in paragraphs both fat and slim, and discarded every one, thinking I needed the last note, the final touch, to wrap this story together and bring it to completion.They buried Ken Mitchell on a clear winter's day, with fire trucks and an honor guard.

"His place in the church is empty"

Quoting from the Benton Courier's original article:

"Ken Mitchell, chief of the Tull Volunteer Fire Department and pastor at Saline Missionary Baptist Church in Tull, made the ultimate sacrifice Thursday morning.

Mitchell, 59, died while responding to a house fire at 8722 W. Cherry St. in Tull. He was pronounced dead at Saline Memorial Hospital in Benton."

"…Simpson, also a member of the church, noted that Mitchell performed more than 160 weddings and funerals in the community."

Including my own, seven years ago. I only have the photo of him signing our marriage license, a photo which, as part of our wedding collage, hangs in our hallway to this day:

Ken signs the marriage certificateKen signs the marriage certificate